This The Expanse review contains spoilers.
The Expanse Season 3 Episode 6
It’s very cruel of Syfy to give us such an amazing episode of The Expanse the week after announcing its cancellation! “Immolation” reminds us of the best this show has to offer, and the ending left us wide-eyed and breathless. Every moment, from Bobbie’s soaring chase to Holden’s reconciliation with Naomi, was on point and played for maximum emotional impact, whether chillingly frightening, deeply poignant, or otherwise. This episode likely even satisfied readers of the Corey novels, who saw scenes they expected and eagerly anticipated rendered flawlessly on the screen — including the emergence of the protomolecule structure from Venus. Wow, what a visual!
In retrospect, the writers and directors should be applauded for never letting us forget that the Venus event was always happening in the background. News reports of the Arboghast phenomenon simply played on newsfeeds as scenes began or ended, providing a logical transition into or out of a dialogue and acting as a reminder for the audience: easy to do in a book, supremely challenging to do on TV! And for the massive object to emerge, trailing mysterious tendrils and glowing with blue pinpoints of light, just as the hybrids were eliminated (presumably?) was a masterful pivot for the second half of the season.
The manner in which the hybrids were destroyed played beautifully into both the political plot and the character drama in The Expanse. After Alex emptied the Roci’s PDCs, Naomi came up with the only possible solution: ask Tycho for help. But she didn’t do it on her own this time, and her decision to ask her friends and crewmates to trust Fred Johnson with the transponder codes by diplomatically saying, “I want to do this, but we all have to agree,” was a brilliant way to mend the fractured family and allow the Belt to win points while doing good. With the nukes Fred stole from Earth no less!
The intimate scene that resulted between Holden and Naomi wasn’t the only heartwarming result. The same montage that gave us their naked smooches, Fred firing his nukes, and Mao kneeling before Avasarala also gave us Prax’s long-awaited reunion with his daughter Mei. The rescue was timed perfectly, right down to the fact that even we couldn’t see her among the children until the last minute, and having Amos wrangle the children gave him the perfect chance to display his protective nature when it comes to kids, a quality which Wes Chatham expertly portrays with obsessive detachment and not a hint of any softer emotions.
The dilemma Prax faced in seeking revenge against Strickland was the ultimate culmination of the cold demeanor he displayed with Amos in recent episodes, bringing a sense of completion to that particular side story. Even though we knew Prax wouldn’t be able to kill the doctor in cold blood, Amos’ insistence that “You’re not that guy,” was reassuring. That being said, despite the fact that Amos menacingly ending with, “I am that guy,” could be seen coming a mile away, the scene was played to perfection, and the audience couldn’t help but pump their fists in vengeful approval.
The whole pursuit leading up to that point was filled with well-paced suspense and heart-stopping action. Beginning with the tension-breaking banter in the elevator which Avasarala called “whistling in the dark,” the sequence reached its peak with Bobbie’s awe-inspiring cat-and-mouse game with the creature once known as Katoa. Her marine power suit never ceases to impress, whether she’s blithely stepping in front of a hail of bullets or leaping superhumanly across a series of girders, and although some might complain about the terrible battery life on that thing, the bruising she endured was admirably and painfully realistic.
Plus there was plenty of action on the Agatha King as well. With Alex and Naomi braving the goo-covered death ship, the pathos was thick in the air, but the drama was delicious. The fact that Naomi could at least reprogram one pod was both impressive and believably insufficient. Even Nguyen’s evil laugh as he told Alex the pods couldn’t be stopped was enjoyable knowing how the Admiral views Martians as sub-human. Additionally, Cotyar certainly became the most unlikely hero of the series so far, and although he will be missed, his sacrifice was suitably noble.
The most satisfying comeuppance, however, was meted out on Earth, a location that typically encompasses the least interesting storyline. Not so this week as Anna shares with the secretary general the video of Errinwright confessing to having shot down the Karakum, finally taking the manipulative warmonger out of the picture. But it wasn’t the deputy’s arrest that captivated viewers; instead it was his dismissive attitude toward the leader of Earth, saying, “I fought to save Earth, and you fought to save yourself,” a characterization backed up despicably by Sorrento-Gillis thanking Anna for shifting the blame for the millions dead away from him. Just as Errinwright asserted, the SecGen clearly shows his concern for his image and legacy over everything else. It’s amazing Anna can keep from screaming at the top of her lungs!
It all added up to one of the most dramatic episodes of The Expanse this season, and not just because of the giant alien craft that emerged from Venus (although that certainly was a nice finishing touch). Just about every conflict shifted to a new focus in this episode before the downhill slope of the season. The crew has begun reforging their relationships; Mei has been recovered; the hybrids are presumably destroyed (although don’t forget about the goo beneath the Roci’s hull), Errinwright has been defeated, and Mao has been brought before Avasarala. Whatever new stakes arise will only remind us of how much potential will be wasted if The Expanse fails to find a new home after being tragically canceled.